Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of January 23, 2023

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • The Basque region was the second most generous region in Spain with donations to charitable organizations. The data showed the region had a 4% increase from the previous year.
    • Praise that the people in the Basque region continue to be generous with their money.
  • The general cost of food at the supermarket has increased ~16% which has impacted the types & quantities of foods being purchased, according to one of the local supermarkets.
    • Pray for families as they look to adjust to the rise in food costs.
  • Last year saw some changes to the labor laws for employee contracts with businesses. One year later some of the news is positive and some not so positive.
    • Pray as businesses look for employees & employees as they look for work.
  • This is an election year in Spain. Several primary races have already been held and Sunday May 28 is the date for general elections.
    • Pray for the candidates and those voting as they look to elect leaders for the next term
  • The public healthcare system (Basque name: Osakidetza) continues to have tension and negotiations are ongoing.
    • Pray for the healthcare workers, leadership, politicians and those needing care as they work through the situation.
  • The current Basque legislative had plans to address 36 different laws, to date they have only addressed 17. They are hoping to address the other 19 before the end of the legislative session in 2024.
    • Pray for the political leaders as they look to work through the remaining legislative calendar.

The verse for the week:

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14 ESV

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 28, 2022

Prayer Points and verse for the week:

Prayers points:

  • Violence against women has seen a 14% increase over the last year. This information was shared in the lead up to International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. A call center has already received ~2500 calls this year from women requesting help.
    • Pray for women, children, families and men impacted by these actions.
  • Currently ~80 minors are needing a foster home in Gipuzkoa. There are already ~380 in foster homes.
    • Pray for those who are in foster care and those still needing to be placed with a family.
  • A shortage of ~5000 skilled workers for Basque businesses such as plumbing, bakeries and construction are having a hard time finding trained workers. While others workers trained in fabrication, industrial robots and computing are having a hard time finding employment. A general concern exists with an aging population and not enough births the labor shortages will worsen.
    • Pray for those businesses needing workers and those looking for work.
  • Since 2015 the percentage of young people that want to have kids has been decreasing, with a 17.8% drop in the last 7 years. The reasons noted for the decrease are economic insecurity, culture changes and social priorities. Additionally, COVID-19 added to the uncertainty of them wanting to bring kids into this world.
    • Pray for those who are trying to determine if they want to have a child.
  • The debate about how Basque Country and Catalonia relate to Spain is a topic that will likely be put on the legislative calendar for 2024. Leaders from both regions believe now is the time to once again have conversation.
    • Pray for political leaders as they look to determine how these regions interact with Spain, the EU and the world.
  • In Gipuzkoa the number of homes that have been built for the different social programs are at historic lows. To address this shortage, plans are being made to start construction on 500 new homes before the end of the year.
    • Pray for those who are building them and those who are needing to find affordable housing

The verse for the week:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14–16

Basque Country Prayer Points for Week of November 14, 2022

Prayers points:

  • Rising energy costs and inflation continue to be a concern for businesses, families and those on fixed incomes
    • Pray for all those who are being impacted by these rising costs
  • In 2021 people who desired to have their sex changed has doubled in Basque Country
    • Pray for the participants and those facilitating these changes
  • In Gipuzkoa aggression against women has seen an increase of 20% this year
    • Pray for the women, the men and other family members who have been affected by these aggressions
  • November 1 was a National Holiday for All Saints day
    • Pray for those who have lost loved one’s in the last year and that they may seek to better understand God’s plan for their life
  • Donostia’s new Catholic bishop Fernando Prado
    • Pray for him as he looks to guide the city’s Catholic churches
  • 2023 budget process for the Basque Government
    • Pray as leaders review spending and determine which projects to fund
  • Cost of medical care has doubled in the last 10 years as treatment costs have increased
    • Pray for the public system as it looks to secure funding to run
  • Spain has submitted its request for the next payment from the Next Generation fund
    • Pray for approval as the European Commision reviews the information submitted as these funds several different planned national and local government projects

The verse for the week:

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Colossians 3:2 NLT

The Church is Out of Style

There was an article in the local newspaper recently explaining how the Basque society is more and more secular. The youngest Catholic priest in our province was interviewed and he was quoted as saying “we aren’t in style”, referring to the church. Part of his reasoning was that as society flourishes from a material and physical standpoint, it’s harder for people to recognize that they NEED God. Only a small portion of Basque society goes without their basic needs being met so many people don’t notice that they are missing something or someONE. It’s a beautiful area with amazing food and an intriguing culture, the world would tell you that it seems like paradise just as it is. 

The young priest went on to say that the church is more “ideological” than “evangelical”, meaning there is more talk about what we believe as opposed to sharing the Good News with those outside the church. He did seem hopeful for the future though as he is seeing more conversions among young people.

Another issue that should be addressed is that the average age of all of the priests in our province is 74, while the younger half of the priests are under 60. I’ll save you the mathematical thinking and tell you that this means that the older half are significantly older. This means that within the next 10-15 years, the majority of that older half will no longer be with us and there will be a massive shortage of priests, leading to fewer church services and even fewer opportunities for outreach. 

Amongst the other “church people” who were interviewed, one said we need to involve more laity (non-ordained people) and women, another said we need “less liturgy and more action” calling for more social justice work in the community, and yet another says we just need to be faithful and pray. On a personal level, when I tell people I am a Christian but I’m not Catholic, I’m often met with blank stares of confusion. They didn’t know that was even possible. So with all of these differing opinions, it’s easy to see why the church is considered “out of style”.

What would you do if you already thought you were living in paradise, then found out you could have even more? We have all of the physical needs met, but what about the emotional and spiritual needs? Internal peace and security are just as important as physical comforts, and those can only truly be found in a meaningful relationship with our Creator. It’s our job to show people that it’s possible.

Intentionality in Ministry

Ever since we moved to the Basque Country, we’ve been very intentional and specific about where we do our shopping, what restaurants we frequent, and how we spend our time. We make a point to talk to the people who work in the stores and restaurants we go to and have even exchanged phone numbers with some of them. They will stop and speak to us in the street and call us by name when we come into their stores and restaurants. The Basque culture is all about relationships and that requires investment. Yes, we could have the newspaper delivered to our home or buy a printer, but then we would miss out on building relationships with the people in the local office store. There are tons of restaurants we haven’t tried out, but then we miss out on being greeted with “Hola familia!!” when we go to the places where they know us and what we like to order.

These investments are starting to pay dividends. Just this week I went into one of these local shops and greeted the woman who works there like always. When I asked her how she was doing, I got the standard “good, thanks”, but she hesitated a bit and then started opening up about how worried she was about the war in Ukraine and the possibility of it turning into a world war. She exclaimed that there were problems all over the world and she was a bundle of nervous energy. I felt a strong sense from God to share the source of my peace with her, so I explained that when we stay focused on worldly events we will stay worried and anxious, but if we focus on God, we can have peace from Him. I told her that the Bible tells us this world is not our home, we’re only here temporarily. She told me that the fact that I was able to find peace during all of this was a “wonder” and was very interested in what I was telling her. 

This interaction would not have happened if she didn’t feel like I was a safe person to share this with, and that only happened after consistently going into her store for over 2 years. Building relationships with people takes time and a lot of effort, but when it gives us the opportunity to be heard when we share about our faith, it’s all worth it. Our prayer is that God will continue to put people in our paths that are open to hearing about this Good News, and that we can be bold in our faith as we talk to them. 

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

-Philippians 4:7

Who Causes my Problems?

It was my first outing after a particularly severe case of strep throat during our first year in the Basque Country.

I was getting my hair cut and I was talking with the stylist about all of the unknowns surrounding the current restrictions due to Covid and school for the girls, the seeming impossibility of making any sort of future plans, etc. In a culture where traditions and familiarity are deeply grounded, uncertainty breeds a whole new level of anxiety. She told me there is a common saying here: “Dios aprieta pero no ahoga”. Literal translation is “God squeezes but doesn’t choke”. She went on to explain that it means that even though there are many problems, God will not make it so severe that it kills us. This woman is not a Christian, but was sharing this phrase that she grew up hearing. I felt a strong stirring from God that I needed to respond somehow, even though this woman speaks very little English and I still couldn’t think straight due to just getting over strep throat, much less in Spanish. I told her that I believed God is always with us and helps us when we have problems, but God is not the one CAUSING the problems like the saying suggests. She seemed to be open to that idea (Thank you God for using me when I feel like I can’t be used!!), and we continued talking about other topics, but I couldn’t quit thinking about it. How do we share about a loving, trustworthy, gracious God when one of the underlying cultural beliefs is that God is the one causing their problems? The layers of culture are so important to understand in order to effectively do any sort of ministry. 

The culture in the Basque Country is an interesting mix of guilt, shame, and fear. When you share with a Basque person that something difficult has happened like an injury or illness, the typical response is “Que mala suerte!”, which means “What bad luck!”. Cultural norms here will tell you that things generally happen based on luck, or sometimes karma. It’s not uncommon for people to have cultural symbols of good luck near their front doors, along with a witch to protect them, and maybe even a cross somewhere in their house, just in case. Knowing all of this, how should one go about sharing the good news? Where does the God of the Bible fit into their narrative?

We share our personal testimony, but that often leads to them responding with “that’s good for you, but has nothing to do with me”. They don’t see any relevance for them.

We have honest discussions (AFTER listening carefully, addressing misconceptions and/or answering questions) – they are often very open to intellectual conversations/debate. What we have to do is to listen and have conversation without coming across like we’re arguing with them.

What if it’s true? This is a great question that encourages them to consider the possible implications of what we are sharing with them.

Our goal is to point them towards the God who entered the world to save them. This God is not the one causing the problems, though He can and often does use those problems, along with the lessons learned in dealing with them, in order to further His kingdom. The God of the Bible walks alongside us as we face these problems, and wants to walk alongside the Basque people as well. Will you pray with us that they would accept Him?